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OP-ED: An HR perspective of the pandemic

  • Published at 01:06 am June 17th, 2020
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Treat your employees as human beings, not just as resources

On June 12, I was watching a Tribune Talks webinar on Facebook. Among others, the prominent Bangladeshi economist and freedom fighter Reh- man Sobhan was there as a panelist. They were analyzing the budget for FY20-21, which was declared a few days ago. 

In the concluding part of Rehman Sir’s discussion, he was explaining that Covid-19 is quite a democratic disease. So I thought about it for some time to understand the depth of his words, and saw that there are no developed countries and underdeveloped countries for this virus, there’s no rich and poor for this virus, even those countries that have advance health care facilities for their people are suffering. 

A huge number of people are getting infected and dying every day from the deadly virus corona. There is no specific vaccine yet to be found, the only solution is distancing from people to control the spread of the virus. However, researchers and scientists around the globe are working tirelessly to develop it. 

The front line workers are risking and sacrificing their lives to treat the Covid-19 positive patients, we bow to them. Bangladesh is now still in the growth phase of Covid-19 -- we are seeing new records almost every day in terms of infection and deaths. For a country like ours, this pandemic becomes a humanitarian issue, because our government does not have the luxury to take care of people like the developed countries do. 

Many NGOs are working towards this, but this is not enough. And this is why we all need to contribute towards this fight from our individual levels to help each other. Every citizen of the country should act responsibly to minimize the sufferings of the people. 

Amid this pandemic, thousands of people around the world are becoming jobless every day. Bangladesh is no different. People are suffering from great mental trauma due to job cuts, because without livelihood it’s not possible to live lives. Most business owners are trying to do the best for their employees and workers. 

Similarly, employees in every level of the organization have a responsibility to save lives and minimize the losses as much as we can. Therefore, we have to avoid shallow insights or impulsive decisions. We don’t have any central database in order to see how many people from which company/industry have become jobless till date, and who they are.

I think this kind of database is much-needed for private sector employees now, so that people will get the right information, which will also help to hire people. In this crisis, based on the job nature, most organizations have allowed their staff to work from home. So, every manager/senior should maintain continuous communication with their staff, whether through phone, email, or video conferencing. 

This will also create a good impact on the staff’s mental health, as they feel they are being heard by the senior leadership. Be empathetic, listen to them, show your utmost care and support. Every one of us should think and find out every alternative solution working effectively and efficiently. Because we are certainly heading off to a new normal after this pandemic. 

We have to become multi-tasking employees. Think outside the box, add value to the value chain, give your best -- you will sustain, regardless of age, pay, and position. To me, every manager in an organization is also an HR manager, because they manage the people of their department directly. 

So, before thinking of job cuts or downsizing, or retrenching someone from your group of companies/SBU due to cost control for this crisis, please check what posts are vacant -- for what posts are you planning to hire people. Try to fit them on those posts by job rotation or internal transfer. 

They might not have the right skill sets initially for that job, but if someone tries, they can learn it fast. They will not be required to be kept under probation, nor will they be required to undergo training again to learn the organization culture, which will save money and time. 

At the same time, it will help to feed their families. To do this, bosses need to maintain continuous communication among their staff. We should develop more coordination among team members, sections, and departments. In this corona time, if we recognize our people in the organization as human beings, not just as resources, many problems will be solved. Also, a small contribution can make a huge difference. We must extend our helping hands to the unprivileged around us, because to fight a democratic virus, we need a democratic effort. There is light end of the tunnel. Be patient. Be aware of corona. Be safe. 

Muhid Bhuiya has been a Human Resources Manager since 2010, and has worked in various industries in Bangladesh.

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